Today is: Friday, July 19, 2024

iCugini Restaurant Review

  I Cugini in Santa Monica is one of the most sophisticated Italian restaurants around, celebrating the cooking of the three regions in northeastern Italy with ancient links
to Venice known collectively as Tre Venezie. This wonderful, serene trattoria
looks very much like one you might find in Trieste or Verona, and is rigorously authentic, uncompromising in its devotion to truly regional cuisine. On the other
hand, signore e signori, a travesty of Southern Italian cooking
packaged in a decor that celebrates Italy as cliché.

Over at I Cugini, the decor has a nostalgic, comforting feel that's very personal. Open the menu and unless you've been to Friuli or the Veneto, you may recognize only a few dishes. Is that wonderful or what? There's an amazing selection of the most fantastic Italian dishes such as Penne, Bolognese, Farlle con Porcini, Frutti di Mare, etc.

I love to star my dinner with a selection of their greatest appetizers. Our server; Heather was the greatest, she know exactly what I wanted and was
very clever in giving us a details info on what we should try.

The chef Trino Gomes, is a really professional through and through, and is
constantly adding new and surprising dishes to an already terrific menu.

Swordfish Carpaccio

Our appetizers were simply the best, we started with a Swordfish Carpaccio, with marjoram, shiitake mushroom, onion and olive oil, It's a brilliant combination of flavors, sweet and tart at the same time, cutting through the richness
of the fish, one of the best we have ever tasted. 

Fritto Misto                                          Fried Calamari

The Fritto Misto, seems to suit the marvelous flavors of the fried calamari,
shrimp and smelt with spicy marinara and calabrese tartar sauce.

Insalata Granseola                                        Crab Cake      

The Insalata Granseola has been on the menu since Day One, and is made with blue crab, baby artichoke, olive oil and lemon. Sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper, the dish is oddly compelling. Do not miss the Crab Cake, with blue crab meat, it is absolutely one of the best crab cakes we have tasted, I mean it!

Alaskan Black Cod with sautéed Green Chard and Roasted Potato

Going towards our entrees, to be honest, I was already full, but this is my job and someone has to do it, but wait a moment, did I mentioned their pastas are to die
for? Yep, they are, and Heather, our servers told me not to miss the Frutti di
Mare with their home-made fresh Tagliatelle with red sauce. The dish was
perfect, because when you have a combination of fresh seafood
and fresh pasta, you can’t go wrong. Divine!

Seasonal California Spiny Lobster

I really wanted to try their fish, that is what makes I Cugini famous for, so my request was to try the Alaskan Black Cod, with oven roasted “Adriatic Style” with sautéed green chard and roasted potato, and the Seasonal California Spiny Lobster, a 1 ¼ broiled “Adriatic Style” with haricot vert, potatoes and tomato salad. Both dishes were exceptional and perfectly made, I cant’ tell which one I enjoyed the most!

I Cugini also has the distinction of serving the best tiramisu in all of Southern California. That's because it's the real thing (tiramisu, after all, comes from the Veneto). Made with luscious mascarpone layered with espresso-soaked lady fingers and dusted with cocoa, it sits on a square ochre plate in a moat of dark espresso sauce. Even
better, though, is crema di gondoliere, a divine Venetian-style panna cotta
sweetened with caramelized sugar and nestled in a tender wavy crust.

Long Island Ice Tea                                       Champagne       

The wine list is also fantastic! After dinner, I Cugini shines. To cap off the evening,
you can indulge in a glass of grappa from the glittering display on the bar or try
one of the intriguing 18th century-style after-dinner liqueurs the chef
makes by macerating various herbs, fruits and flowers in alcohol.

As we gather our things to leave one night, I notice two couples at the back
table, reading the paper companionably while the chef wanders out front to
check the next night's reservations. That relaxed on-site presence
is what makes the restaurant work so well.

I can’t wait to go back! 

For map and location click Here!

For more information please visit their website at

Article by: Mary Adams
Photos by: Chris Marx

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